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In response to comment by Jade on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Lumifer 24 January 2017 03:11:56AM *  1 point [-]

You don't count the Koran as "intact own writings"? :-) Yes, I am well aware that it was compiled quite some time after his death from a collection of records and that, by tradition, Muhammad was illiterate.

The Arab society around VII century wasn't big on writing -- the cultural transmission was mostly oral. However external sources mention Muhammad already in 636 AD.

In response to comment by Lumifer on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 25 January 2017 12:43:05PM *  0 points [-]

You're referring to the phrase "many villages were ravaged by the killing of the Arabs of Muhammad", written after Muhammad's supposed death, "Arabs of Muhammad" meaning 'Muslims' the way "people of Christ" means 'Christians'. That Muslims and Christians existed doesn't mean the characters they invoked to justify violence, supremacism, etc. existed as actual humans.

Criteria for considering Muhammad and Jesus near certain are so lax, we'd have to consider some Greek/Roman gods near certain.

In response to comment by Jade on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Lumifer 23 January 2017 05:47:52PM 2 points [-]

Historical Muhammad not certain

What's your comparison baseline? Compared to the screen in front of your face, he's not certain. Compared to pretty much anyone born in the VI century, he is quite certain.

In response to comment by Lumifer on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 24 January 2017 01:56:00AM *  0 points [-]

Then why don't you just point to evidence of his existence being more likely than others'? We have bodily remains, intact own writings, or historical records made during the lives of many born in 6th century, e.g. Columbanus, Pope Gregory I, founding emperor of Tang Dynasty, Radegund, Venantius Fortunatus, Theodora). So why don't we have any one of those types of evidence about Muhammad?

In response to comment by Salemicus on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: gjm 20 January 2017 02:35:36PM 1 point [-]

We do ask J K Rowling what non-magical boy inspired Harry Potter.

I guess you mean that we could and it wouldn't be obviously silly, with which I agree. But, for what it's worth, it never crossed my mind to assume that Harry Potter was based on any specific non-magical boy. The characteristics he has that aren't essentially dependent on story-specific things (magic, being the prime target of a supervillain, etc.) seem pretty ordinary and not in any particular need of explanation.

I wouldn't be astonished if it turned out that there was some kid Rowling knew once whom she used as a sort of basis for the character of Harry Potter, but I'd be a bit surprised. And if it did, I wouldn't expect particular incidents in the books to be derived from particular things that happened to that child.

In particular, I wouldn't say that the simplest (still less the most likely) explanation for the Harry Potter stories involves there being some non-magical child on whom they are based.

I don't think any of this has much bearing on whether the simplest explanation for stories about Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha, Zeus, etc., involves actual historical characters on which they're based. The answer to that surely varies a lot from case to case. (FWIW I'd say: historical Jesus of some sort likely but not certain; historical Muhammad almost certain; historical Buddha likely but not certain; historical Zeus-predecessor very unlikely. But I am not expert enough for my guesses to be worth anything.)

In response to comment by gjm on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 23 January 2017 02:57:37AM *  0 points [-]

Historical Muhammad not certain: http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122669909279629451 . Of course, people have set about trying to protect minds from a 'fringe' Bayesian view: "Prof. Kalisch was told he could keep his professorship but must stop teaching Islam to future school teachers." In case anyone missed it, Richard Carrier explicitly used Bayes on question of historical Jesus. I don't know if Kalisch used Bayes, but his language conveys intuitive Bayesian update.

The bearing of fictional stories is simple: calculate probabilities of historical X based on practically 100% probability that human imagination was a factor (given that the stories contain highly unlikely magic like in known-to-be fiction stories, plus were written long after X supposedly lived). Note that that still leaves out probabilities of motivations for passing fiction as nonfiction like Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard did. Once you figure probabilities including motivations and iterations of previous religious memes, it becomes increasingly unlikely that X existed. Paul Bunyan, AFAIK, wasn't based on previous memes for controlling people, nor were the stories used to control people, so I wouldn't be suspicious if someone believed the stories started based on someone real. When people insist religious characters were real, OTOH, I become suspicious of their motivations, given unlikelihood that they examined evidence and updated Bayesian-like.

@Salemicus: Citation for "We do ask JK Rowling what non magical boy inspired Harry Potter"?

In response to comment by Jade on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Salemicus 12 January 2017 11:36:08AM 1 point [-]

Would you say the origins of other religions become more mysterious if there never were whatever magical beings those religions posit?

Yes, of course.

The least mysterious explanation of Paul Bunyan stories is that there really was a Paul Bunyan. And the closer the real Paul Bunyan hews to the Bunyan of the stories, the smaller the mystery. P(stories about Bunyan | Bunyan) > P(stories about Bunyan | !Bunyan).

But just because a story is simple, doesn't necessarily make it likely. We can't conclude from the above that P(Bunyan | stories about Bunyan) > P(!Bunyan | stories about Bunyan).

In response to comment by Salemicus on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 16 January 2017 03:00:52AM *  1 point [-]

You left out the 'magical' part of my question. If magical beings exist(ed), then everything becomes more mysterious. That's partly why we don't pester JK Rowling about what extra-special boy Harry Potter was based on. We don't even suspect comic superheros like Batman, who has no magic, to have been based on a real-life billionaire. We certainly don't have scholars wasting time looking for evidence of 'the real Batman.' Modern stories of unlikely events are easily taken as imaginings, yet when people bucket a story as 'old/traditonal', for some people, that bucket includes 'characters must've been real persons', as if humans must've been too stupid to have imagination. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fakelore

In response to comment by Jade on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Salemicus 07 January 2017 12:15:36PM 2 points [-]

Neither sufficient nor necessary:

  • The origins of Christianity become more mysterious, not less, if there never was a Jesus.
  • We don't need to tie ourselves to a fringe hypothesis to posit non-supernatural origins for the Gospels.
In response to comment by Salemicus on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 11 January 2017 02:53:48AM 1 point [-]

Would you say the origins of other religions become more mysterious if there never were whatever magical beings those religions posit? Would you think it likely that Guanyin was real human of unknown gender? Do the origins of fictional stories become more mysterious if there never were the fictitious characters in the flesh? Did Paul Bunyan exist, as there were similar lumberjacks?

You're not supposed to tie yourself to any hypothesis, even if mainstream, but rather update your probability distributions. Bits of the NT weren't written until long enough after the supposed death of Jesus that people wouldn't have been like, 'Who you talkin' about?' And I doubt they would've cared whether the character existed, like no one cares whether Harry Potter existed, because it's the stories that matter.

In response to comment by Rixie on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Salemicus 27 August 2013 08:20:22PM *  4 points [-]

If Jesus wasn't magic, where did the Bible even come from?

Some people wrote it down. That's also the Christian story of where the Bible came from.

There probably was something extra-special about Jesus, in the sense that he was highly charismatic, or persuasive, and so on. And his followers probably really did think that he'd come back from the dead, or at least that his body had mysteriously vanished. But none of that adds up to magic or divinity. Look at people in the current day - convinced (rightly or wrongly) in the existence of aliens, or homeopathy, or whatever else. "If L. Ron Hubbard wasn't magic, where did Dianetics come from?"

Alternatively, consider Joseph Smith. He's far more recent and far better-attested than Jesus, who also had a loyal group of followers who swore blind that they'd seen miracles - even the ones who later broke with him, and who after his death, carried on his teachings and founded a religion with the utmost seriousness and in the face of extreme hardship and sacrifice. Yet chances are you're not a Mormon (or, if you are a Mormon, consider Mohammed ibn Abdullah). Apply the same thinking to Jesus's life as you do to that of Josepth Smith, and see where it takes you.

In response to comment by Salemicus on Crisis of Faith
Comment author: Jade 10 December 2016 10:38:59PM 1 point [-]
Comment author: Larks 17 May 2013 01:17:17PM 11 points [-]

The best answer I know is Rawlsianism.

No! That is not Rawlsianism. Rawls was writing about how to establish principles of justice to regulate the major institutions of society; he was not establishing a decision procedure. I think you mean UDT.

Comment author: Jade 18 May 2013 02:07:35AM *  5 points [-]

elharo was referring to 'veil of ignorance,' a concept like UDT applied by Rawls to policy decision-making.

In response to comment by [deleted] on We Don't Have a Utility Function
Comment author: private_messaging 06 April 2013 10:25:36AM *  4 points [-]

In the above example, attempts to produce a most accurate estimate of the sum do a better job than attempts to produce most complete sum.

In general what you learn from applied mathematics is that plenty of methods that are in some abstract sense more distant from the perfect method have a result closer to the result of the perfect method.

E.g. the perfect method could evaluate every possible argument, sum all of them, and then decide. The approximate method can evaluate a least biased sample of the arguments, sum them, and then decide, whereas the method that tries to match the perfect method the most would sum all available arguments. If you could convince an agent that the latter is 'most rational' (which may be intuitively appealing because it does resemble the perfect method the most) and is what should be done, then in a complex subject where agent does not itself enumerate all arguments, you can feed arguments to that agent, biasing the sum, and extract profit of some kind.

Comment author: Jade 09 April 2013 11:46:14AM 3 points [-]
Comment author: Jade 21 January 2013 05:08:08AM *  0 points [-]

From what I've learned about brains, the left brain is engaged in symbolic thinking about a problem, which engages more logical, methodical problem-solving. For a combination that you won't arrive at through that approach, you have to give your brain, apparently involving activation of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and other right-brain parts, more time to integrate info from stored memory or lower-level processed stimuli or to make novel associations related to the problem. When left prefrontal cortex is engaged in focusing on performing a task, it'll inhibit the processing of info seemingly irrelevant to the task. This is why aha/eureka moments are more likely when you're relaxed, not focused and your mind gets to wander (e.g. getting on bus while on vacation, taking a shower/bath). Studies suggest that more creative or sudden-insight (as opposed to deliberately trying different combinations) problem-solvers have greater right brain activity and lower inhibition of it.

Look up "Aha! moments" in the index of Eric Kandel's book, The Age of Insight, which cites many papers, incl. "Explaining and inducing savant skills: privileged access to lower level, less-processed information". A few of my other references: "Bayes for Schizophrenics: Reasoning in Delusional Disorders", "Creativity tied to mental illness", "Through the Wormhole: Creativity Cap"

Comment author: Jade 18 November 2012 11:04:40AM *  0 points [-]

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